Former state officials appeal Highway Trust Fund ruling

Gov. Mike Easley is a plaintiff in the nearly 6-year-old case involving the constitutionality of a transfer used to balance the state budget.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Attorneys for the state's former transportation secretary has filed an appeal in a lawsuit against Gov. Mike Easley in a six-year fight over the state's Highway Trust Fund.

Then-Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Harrington, and Sen. Bill Goldston, who lobbied to create the fund in 1989, claim Easley and the Legislature violated the state constitution when they transferred $205 million to help balance the 2001-2002 budget.

Lawmakers have said they borrowed the money from the trust fund with the intent to pay it back, plus interest.

In 2006, the state Supreme Court overturned a ruling by lower courts that Harrington and Goldston had legal standing to sue as taxpayers.

A later ruling by the trial court was in favor of the state, but the new appeal claims the trial court judgment erred when it did not fully address the constitutionality of the transfer.

The Highway Trust Fund provides multi-year funding for highway construction and maintenance and funding is collected from gasoline taxes, highway use taxes, motor vehicle registration to pay for seven urban loops throughout the state, including N.C. Highway 540.

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